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Jul 29 2008

When Persuasion Doesn’t Work, Try Threats, Eh?

I’m sure most of you have read the story of Rick’s pretty pamphlet by now. If you’re one of the five non-Pharyngula readers, go ahead and click through – we’ll wait.

(Dude – you know what we Pharyngula fans need to do this Christmas? Rewrite all the carols to the theme of squid. Nice, eh?)

You guys back? Excellent. So, I’m sure you noticed a pattern to that church’s pamphlet: it started out all warm and fluffy and then bludgeoned you with the “You’re gonna rot in HELL if you don’t BELIEVE!!1!!1!!!” These things always end in threats, and frequently tears, don’t they?

It brought to mind one of my favorite stories from Garrett. His friend Steve Stone, who’s a pagan and a Jew (great combo!) got a letter from one of the local churches “inviting” him to join. He announced this to the pagan church he belongs to one outing.

They all crowded ’round. “Steve, what’d it say?”

“Well,” Steve said, “it was kinda like this.” He put on his best Mafia don voice and paraphrased, “You come to church, you pay your tithe, we don’t gotta problem. You don’t come to church, you don’t pay your tithe, we gots a problem.”

Nailed it!

Every single proselytizer I’ve spoken to has come down to the same thing in the end: threats. The answer to “Why should I believe?” isn’t “Because it will enrich your life beyond measure.” It’s always, “Because if you don’t, you’ll burn in Hell.” Some of them don’t state it quite so baldly, but that’s always the subtext. They get that fearful look in their eyes. They go pale and clammy and animated and babble about how it’s not a good idea to piss of God.

You know something? If God’s that much of an asshole, I’d rather end up in Hell anyway, thanks ever so much. At least the people there will be quite a bit more interesting, and from what I’ve read of Satan, he could hold a lively conversation and likes good music.

If you have to resort to threats to get people to convert, your religion’s got some serious issues.

And what the fuck is up with these sunlit-clouds motifs? Every evangelical religious site and pamphlet is infested with kitschy sunlit-cloud photos. It’s so vapid. And it’s totally at odds with the whole “God loves you unless you don’t toe the line – then he’s really gonna be pissed” motif. Why not illustrate with something like this:

5 comments

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  1. 1
    Nicole

    “If you have to resort to threats to get people to convert, your religion’s got some serious issues.”Amen! That’s why the church I once belonged to is losing members at an alarming rate. Even members got a weekly dose of “do [fill in the blank] or you’ll go to hell.” Ragh.

  2. 2
    george.w

    I counted 13 what-ifs. Assuming each what-if divides the probability of their desired outcome by 2 (the divisor is probably considerably larger in each case) then at best the probability that they’ve nailed the combination is no better than 2^-13. (Corrections welcome from the more mathematically astute – I want to get this particular zinger right)Compare that probability to the question; “What if the Calvary Bible Church is completely full of crap?” Which should be something like the inverse of the previous probability.

  3. 3
    Woozle

    When I first read that posting, I so wanted to write my own pamphlet right there and then. Stupid life with its stupid lack of time. (They never warned me that God’s retribution could take the form of schedule clutter. Can I trade my current life for a little straightforward hell and damnation please?)I did come up with another idea, and started to put it here — but then I saw your next post, and decided it was more appropriate for an open thread. So, onward to the next post…

  4. 4
    Woozle

    Oh, and regarding Christmas carol rewriting, this seems somewhat relevant:All my little faithful sheepJust close your minds and stay asleepYou don’t need to know the truthJust believeJust like little girls and boysFighting with their little toysThe winner gets to tell everyoneWhat to believeSo they won’t be aloneSo they won’t be aloneIt’s real mythYes it’s really really realIt’s a real mythIt’s really really realIf you trust in God then you’ll knowExactly how your life will goYou’ll be rich with magic poniesIf you believeSo you won’t be afraidSo you won’t be afraidIt’s real mythIt’s really really realIt’s a real mythIt’s really really realIf the cracker really is GodThe death threats don’t seem quite so oddHuman lives are less importantThan what you believeSo they won’t have to thinkSo they won’t have to thinkIt’s real mythIt’s really really realYes the real mythIt’s really really real(Well hey, John is one of my saints… sort of… well, not really, but he did some amazing things in life and is now dead — does that count?)

  5. 5
    Rick

    “Every single proselytizer I’ve spoken to has come down to the same thing in the end: threats.”Its funny how anytime you ask them “why doesn’t God just make me believe?” the answer is an emphatic “freewill”. But it seems to me that the threats are designed to remove free-will: “You don’t want to live an eternity in torment, do you?”

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